Laura Sharman 22 March 2017

Major road plans could be scrapped warns watchdog

The £11.4bn funding plans to upgrade England’s major roads may not be deliverable or affordable, the public spending watchdog has warned today.

In a new report the National Audit Office (NAO) found the Road Investment Strategy was put together so quickly it may not deliver value for money and is already £841m over budget.

It is calling on the Department for Transport and Highways England must take ‘decisive action’ before the summer, with 16 projects already at risk of being cancelled as they do not provide value for money.

‘The Department and Highways England need to agree a more realistic and affordable plan if they are to provide optimal value from the Road Investment Strategy,’ said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.

‘Highways England has been working to address the risks to deliverability, affordability and value for money that were present in 2015, but we are now nearly two years into the five-year road investment period.

‘Decisive action needs to be taken before the updated delivery plan is published in the summer if shortcomings in the current strategy are not to be carried over into future road investment periods.’

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the Government would be better off investing money into local roads. Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s transport spokesman, said: ‘It is wrong and unfair that the Government allocates almost 40 times more money per mile to maintaining national roads, which it controls, compared with local roads, which are overseen by councils.

‘It is paramount this funding discrepancy is swiftly plugged.’

Campaigners also said the new report backs up claims the roads programme is a ‘waste of money’. Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘This report shows that the current emphasis on big road projects could waste a lot of public money and that some projects might not happen at all. This comes hard on the heels of major research showing that new roads simply generate new traffic, without delivering the promised economic benefits.’

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